The Best Thai Restaurants In NYC
All our favorite spots for laab, curries, pad thai, and more.
There are a lot of great Thai restaurants in New York City, and much like Mets fans and people who knew The Ramones as children, many of them are in Queens. But no matter where you are, you can trust there’s a great option nearby. These spots cover a variety of regional styles, and you’ll find something on our list that’s perfect for every situation, from a quick solo lunch to a big night with out-of-towners. Here are some of our favorite Thai restaurants in NYC.
Looking for Thai takeout and delivery and takeout? Check out our guide here.
Ayada is our favorite Thai spot in Elmhurst. Considering the quality and variety of Thai food in this neighborhood, that’s a very big deal. Eat the drunken noodles and panang curry at Ayada, and it’ll make you question all the other drunken noodles and panang curry you’ve had elsewhere. Their raw shrimp salad is another one of our their dishes we think about constantly, and if you want a different kind of raw shellfish, they make an excellent som tum with chunks of shell-on blue crab mixed in. Bring a group, and try to eat in the slightly more charming dining room on the right.
Even though Thai Diner’s iconic sister restaurant Uncle Boon’s closed, and the universe at large is pretty much going to sh*t, Thai Diner’s food has gotten even better since it opened just before the 2020 shutdown. We particularly love the cheesy BEC on a roti, babka french toast drizzled in Thai tea glaze, and an aggressively delicious sandwich with chicken and banana blossom salad piled between its sesame seed buns. But Thai Diner is just as incredible for dinner with a friend, when you can split creamy khao soi with rainbow chard or fried chicken larb. Their excellent breakfast and lunch offerings are served until 5pm every day and you can expect a slight wait during peak meal hours.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Be the first to get expert restaurant recommendations for every situation right in your inbox.
photo credit: Teddy Wolff
If Ugly Baby were a person, it would probably be the loudest one in any given room. And we mean that as a compliment. The food at this Carroll Gardens spot tends to be bright and flavorful (like the mural-covered walls), with a good amount of heat on a lot of the dishes. So if you’re feeling disillusioned and need to be reminded why you get out of bed in the morning and bother going to restaurants, come here. Start with the young jackfruit salad, then split the kao tod nam klook (curried rice with pork skin and peanuts) or a big bowl of khao soi with someone.
Some restaurants serve spicy food that’s like a punch in the face. It hits hard, then you’re down for the count. At Kru, an upscale spot in Williamsburg that specializes in modern takes on century-old Thai recipes, the heat should not be discounted, but it’s not here to knock you out. The food here is nuanced, layered, and delicate. Order correctly, and you can have a transformative meal. Think of it a little like a workout for your palate. Start with some small bites, then move on to relish plates, which rely heavily on local, seasonal produce paired with a slew of dips. Then, move on to curries (the beef tongue is their speciality), and save room for dessert: the pastry chef here is making some of the most interesting sweet dishes we’ve had in recent years.
Somtum Der is an East Village spot that specializes in Isan Thai food, and it’s one of our favorite places for a fun dinner with a big group. The dining room is big and airy, with lots of long tables that will easily fit five to seven of your friends, and they have an especially good list of cocktails and Thai beer. Multiple types of papaya salad should be on your table: our go-tos are the tum thai kai kem, which gets an extra punch from salted duck egg, and the tum poo pla-ra with tiny field crabs. Next, get the H’orderves Der so you can try all the sausages, and finish with grilled meats, larb, and some spicy prawn sashimi.
Hug Esan NYC
Hug Esan is on the same block in Elmhurst as some of our other favorite Thai spots, like Zaab Zaab and Ayada. Get a group together and settle into the tiny, vibrant dining room for a meal you’re going to be talking about for a while. Build out your order around a whole tilapia: it comes grilled or fried, and neither choice is incorrect. You should also get a bowl of spicy Mee Ka Tee or Khao Piak Sen, a meat-heavy soup thickened with pork blood. Round out your meal with some salads and small bites. We’re especially partial to the grilled chicken livers and crispy frog legs.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Khao Kang is a counter-service, cash-only spot in Elmhurst. Within a few minutes of walking through the door, you’ll be eating some of the best Thai food in the city. You’ll see whatever’s available in the rows of heated pans behind the counter, and for less than $10, you can get a selection of three entrees over a heap of rice. The fried garlic pork and ka pao moo are reliably delicious, but we tend to concentrate on the curries when we come here. Try the southern sour curry packed with fish and bamboo shoots, and get some tapioca pudding with bits of corn for dessert.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
Soothr is an East Village restaurant that serves central Thai dishes you may not have seen before elsewhere in Manhattan, like sukhotthai tom yum noodles and specialties from Bangkok’s Chinatown hub. Whatever you do, order the koong karee. This curry has a pleasantly gooey shrimp and egg consistency, and every rich bite tastes like shrimp paste just called curry powder to say "I love you." The dining room is huge, with a lively bar and mood lighting that make this one of our go-to Thai spots when we want to have a nice night out. Their gazebo-like backyard is one of our favorite summer dinner spots.
photo credit: Andrew Bui
If we were 100% certain it wouldn’t get into our eyes, ears, and nose, we’d dive into a pool of the coconut crab curry from Fish Cheeks in Noho. It’s a little sweet with a good amount of spice and big chunks of crab hidden on the bottom, and we often eat it straight without any of the rice on the side. The fragrant po tak soup is another great thing to share with one or two people (the portions here are mostly family-size), and we love the fact that every table gets free shrimp chips with dense, fishy chili jam. The only thing we don’t like about Fish Cheeks is how tough it is to make a reservation. The bright, noisy space is always packed, even on a Monday—but if you don’t mind drinking somewhere else for an hour or so, just put your name in for a few seats at the bar.
photo credit: Noah Devereaux
Wayla is an LES spot that has perpetual birthday party energy. It’s dark and dungeon-like, your cocktail will contain at least one piece of fruit or flora, and there’s a beautiful backyard you could put on a postcard and send to someone abroad. The food here, like the crispy fried chunks of branzino, slightly sweet noodles spilling out of a lobster’s head, and noodle-wrapped meatballs will always make you feel just the right amount of deluxe. Come with a few friends, and dinner will essentially be a party with better catering than at most birthday parties, weddings, and first communions.
The two-block stretch in Elmhurst that’s home to Khao Kang and Ayada is an intimidating place to open a Thai restaurant. But Zaab Zaab, an Isan Thai spot serving dishes packed with lots of chilies, herbs, and lemongrass, holds its own and then some. The menu is broken up into a bunch of different sections (grilled, fish, som tum, etc.), and you should treat it like an urgent checklist. Get the juicy larb with crispy duck skin and bits of chewy liver, and be sure to have a hot pot in the middle of your table. If you’re a party of six or more, you can call for a reservation, otherwise, stop by with one other person and grab a table on the little astroturf patio.